Level: intermediate

We use continuous aspect:

  • for something happening before and after a specific time:

He's getting on the train. (before and after the moment of speaking)
It was a quarter past ten. We were watching the news on television.

  • for something happening before and after another action:

Mother will be cooking the dinner when we get home.
We were waiting for the bus when it started to rain.

  • for something continuing for some time:

Everybody will be waiting for us.
They had been working hard all day.

  • for something happening again and again:

They've been doing that every day this week.
The children were always shouting.
He will be practising the piano every night.

  • for something temporary:

We are renting an apartment until our house is ready.
He was working in a garage during the vacation.

  • for something new:

We have moved from Birmingham. We're living in Manchester now.
He had left university and was working in his father's business.

  • to describe something changing or developing:

Everything has been getting more difficult.
He was growing more bad-tempered every day. 

Continuous aspect 1


Continuous aspect 2


We can use continuous aspect:

How long have you been sitting there?
I don't know how long she had been learning Spanish.

Your friends will be looking for you.
They might be playing tennis.

You should have been driving more carefully.
Soon we will have been living here for 25 years.

Continuous aspect 3


Continuous aspect 4


We do not normally use the continuous aspect with stative verbs. We use the simple instead:

I don't understand you. (NOT am not understanding)
When I got home, I really needed a shower. (NOT was needing)
I've always liked John. (NOT been liking)


Hello Danielyong96,

Both sentences are grammatically correct. The first talks about the past: the floods have already happened and the speaker is thinking about what might have been possible. The second sentence talks about the present or future: the floods have not happened and the speaker is thinking about possible courses of action.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter M
Is there any different in meaning if we use 'Can' instead of 'Could' in the Danielyoung96's question above.

Hello seelan65,

It is possible to use can or could with the present infinitive:

Could the floods be prevented in the first place?

Can the floods be prevented in the first place?

'Could' suggests that the speaker sees preventation as less likely than 'can', so the difference in meaning is one of perspective.


However, the other sentence is a question about the past and here only 'could' is possible:

Could the floods have been prevented in the first place?

Can the floods have been prevented in the first place?



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Peter

thx sir

Good afternoon Sir/Madam.

Could you please give me more explanation for the exercise above? Between "He was picking grapes in France last summer" and "He's driving me mad" which one will be right with continuous aspect: something happening before and after a given time, I think the first one does because it has "last summer".



Hello Bill,

You can see for yourself the explanations by clicking the 'Finish' button.

'He was picking grapes in France last summer.' - this is a temporary action; he is not picking them now, and did it for only a certain time.


'He's driving me mad.' - this is something happening before and after a given time; the driving mad has been going on before the moment of speaking and will continue after it.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team


Sometimes, I find it difficult to recognize non-continuous verbs. Could you please let me know if there is any easy way to recognize them. Non-Continuous verbs are also used as continuous verbs in special sense. Is there any criteria for it?

Hello raj.kumar123,

I'd recommend identifying the verb first. If part of the verb ends in -ing and is preceded by a form of the verb 'be', then it's continuous - otherwise, it's not.

Can you give me an example of a non-continuous verb used as a continuous verb? I'm not sure what you mean.

I hope this helps!

Best regards,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot. Exposure helps one hone one's communication skills. I have just checked the difference between 'recognize' and 'identify'.

Have I used 'one' and 'one's' correctly here?